A Small Roadtrip, in the Italian Riveria

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Joey the Wondercar, Leah's valiant little Cinquecento, (Fiat 500) took us on a delicious road-trip yesterday.  We wandered, really meandered, from Genova to Portofino and back again, with many stops along the way ... lunch, coffee, aperitivo.  

That would be Leah, the Canadian blogger writing over at, Help I Live With My Italian Mother In Law.

The one who laughingly told me, that my camera gear was the only thing that saved me from a soaking yesterday.

This water came that close, as seen below ...


The Ligurian coastline is completely underrated, almost a secret, but I kind of like the peace of that.

And as you can see, if you know New Zealand ... it reminds me of home.


Everything was beautiful out there.  Divine even, without exaggeration. 

There was this confused feral cat, who stretched and smooched nearby but hissed if we reached out to stroke her.  She was a beautiful creature.

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And we met up with Leah's little dog soul-mate, and I whispered to him as I clicked the shutter.

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And then?

Well, we found these hammocks, up in the olive grove, above Leah's house.  

I have wanted a hammock my whole entire life.  I had spent a few hours in one as a child and loved it.  I thought I had died and gone heaven yesterday, up there on the top of the hill at Portofino, in the hammock hanging between two olive trees, as the sun started its slide into sunset.

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And on the way home, walking back through the city, people called out and greeted me.  And that's gold when you live in a country not your own.  

It was a good day ... 

Grazie mille, Leah. 

Road-Tripping ...Things I'm Learning

The best random car radio I've heard anywhere in the world so far was between Rijeka, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  I guess it's music I know so perhaps there was some nostalgia from the 70s and 80s involved but honestly, excellent music for that 4+ hour journey.

If you have a rental car that doesn't charge your GPS as you travel, chances are you might have some challenging experiences when attempting to reach your destination

First hint of trouble was in Verona.  Many people were approached for directions to our final destination in the heart of the ancient city.  Rijeka, and voila, although we tried to leave the GPS alone and simply rely on it for the complicated city-leaving and arrival parts ... the GPS battery started to die about one kilometre from our destination.

About then we became suspicious of the coincidence of the destination flag appearing and the battery warning appearing.  Maybe it had some kind of bug in the machine. 

Budapest ... about a kilometre from our destination, having really rested the GPS, up came the battery warning along with the destination flag. We were caught in a long traffic jam on the other side of the river.  Julie laughed.  I was not amused.

We crossed over into Austria yesterday and barely used the GPS.  No flag appeared as we neared our Vienna destination ... the 'bug' in the GPS suspicion is over.  The rental car has a faulty charger.  We shall proceed with caution, relying mostly on the big highway signs.  It's Trieste today and a longer journey that will take us through Slovenia.

But back to other things learned ... be clear on destinations programmed into the GPS. We had hoped to call in for lunch in Zagreb but managed to miscommunicate on programming that idea in.  We passed by and realised, after a conversation, that we love the journey as much as the destinations so we continued on.  4+ hours of road-tripping was a really excellent Plan B, although we did detour to a secondary road and visit a lake before leaving Hungary.

Budapest, brilliant city.  Loved it but more to follow in another post. 

Julie's handbag.  The one that sits behind us on the floor of the backseat.  Yes Julie, it is a marvellous bag that holds so much but ... let's be sure that I pull out your sunglasses, your normal glasses, your lip balm, your iPod music player (although that's more useful if charged), and every other thing I have had to grapple with on the road trip while you have driven us across Europe.

But okay, yes, perhaps it would have lacked a certain sense of achievement had we been that organised.

Air B&B, a great way to travel. We've stayed in local homes and apartments, met excellent people that I have to write more about when I have all the information and life isn't about the journey.  I'm writing this from a student flat in Vienna, where one of our hosts is a lovely Croatian guy studying architecture.  He was just in Rijeka last week.  They are a delightful couple and we're glad that we did it.  Julie organised it all and she has made me a convert because I do love meeting people where ever I go.   

It's another big old apartment complex with at least two inner courtyards.  The Budapest apartment was my favourite so far ... directly behind the opera house and truly exquisite, inner courtyard, beautiful ironwork on the inside and that delicious sense that you are experiencing something of an everyday life in each place.

Learned while living in Istanbul ... always look for cafes and restaurants that are full of locals. Do not be tempted to do anything else.  If you know someone, all the better, ask them where to eat.  We have eaten divinely while traveling.   It's been less about expensive and upmarket and so very much about good local food.  Hungary has been my absolute favourite so far. 

If in doubt about where to eat, stop someone who looks like they might eat in places you would like to eat in.  Asking politely worked every time.

Wines ... some countries you can barely go wrong, other countries have a wine culture to be explored with caution.  Perhaps that's as specific as I'll get but I do love countries where I can find my beloved Italian red wines. We enjoyed this Croatian red wine.   And were really impressed by Hungarian red wine ... absolutely lovely.  Thanks to Jennifer.

Men from Manchester on stag weekends in Budapest ... very friendly, quite naughty but with a lovely humour that meant we always wandered away on laughing.  We met 3 groups on our second night there.  Yes, they made us laugh.

Croatians in Rijeka speak beautiful English.  We were told by the lovely wine guy that they start studying it in fourth grade.  Hungarians in Budapest also speak beautiful English. 

Maybe that's enough for this post.  I wanted to finish up with a photograph of the most divine fish and chips I've had any place so far ...located on Andrássy Avenue, we would absolutely recommend The Bigfish restaurant because their cod and chips were sublime.

Verona, Italy

It's been a freefall into life and people and adventures lately ...

A.  Free. Fall.

Sometimes I've found myself wondering if I might hit the wall, other times it has been about 'when' I would hit that wall.

And people.  It has been a festival of folk I adore, or folk I have come to adore. And family.  And everyone else too.

But tonight ... tonight finds me, in Verona, Italy, listening to Zucchero, Pavarotti, and Bocelli singing Miserere.  Introducing Julie to the music of Zucchero actually... because we need him in the car as we roadtrip tomorrow and because she confessed that, like me, she loves Pavarotti.

We ate dinner at Locandina Cappello tonight and matched a delicious pasta with a delightful red wine ... a Valpollicella Classico Superiore Ognisanti Bertani DOC.  I wouldn't mind finding some more of that particular red wine. 

You see we had wandered through the old city centre, in search of the perfect place to have our 'first night in Italy' dinner, and realised that we are really looking forward to wandering in tomorrow morning's first light.  It seems like a pretty city ... and while Genova has my heart and soul, it seems my head could be slightly turned by Verona.

Although that turn of head might be because of the kindness of strangers here.  You see, just before we arrived at our 'tricky to find anyway' destination, and after Julie had driven 201kms, our NEW GPS died.  For some reason it wasn't receiving a charge from the car's cigarette lighter ...despite me pressing it in there when we got the low battery warning.

So there we were, in the ancient part of the city ...without directions.

I saw a man walking along the street, and stopped him to ask for directions.  He turned on his phone, pulled up his GPS, frowned, sighed a little, and gave us a couple of options on locating this difficult to find street.  He apologised for the complications we would encounter.

We set off and ended up taking the most difficult option while managing to follow his spoken directions then we saw two young men walking along the street and we stopped so I could ask them if they could help a little. They turned on their phones, turned on their GPS function ... our street didn't come up  and they admitted that while they were studying in Verona, they weren't from Verona.

We 3 stopped a woman walking by ... as you do, gently and politely, and she had no English but the young men spoke with her.  I saw some head-shaking and heard muttering.  I asked if it was complicated and yes, I was told.  Very.  She apologised and left.

We drove on.  I saw a guy walking along the street and stopped him to ask.  We had parked the car by now. He was a local and said he was in no hurry to go home and that he would walk us there.  And he did.

But, of course, we had no street number and so it was that another kind stranger, seeing us looking confused and staring at our papers while talking to our rescuer, came out and asked if he might help.  But he wasn't sure either ... and then another neighbour came over, and she offered her advice, and then another neighbour.

And suddenly, just as we were wandering off to the viccolo with the same name, The Guy arrived and we were rescued. He took up up upstairs to this cute little student flat/summer Air B&B.  And here we are, after a delicious dinner in this ancient city ... the location of a story I studied so long ago, back home in New Zealand, never imagining that one day I might wander by Juliet's balcony while searching out a place for dinner, one September evening in 2013.